tv Washington Week PBS September 18, 2010 12:30am-1:00am PST
♪ gwen: reaping the whirlwind. what this week's election results mean for washington and the rest of the country. tonight on "washington week." >> ladies and gentlemen, the people of delaware have spoken. [cheers and applause] gwen: start your political engines as a newcomer shakes up the republican party. >> just a lot of nutty things she's been saying. gwen: and democrats try to make the most of it. >> it's real tough for the republican party, really it's kind of hung on a shingle, you know. no moderates need apply. gwen: but if this is a fundamental shift, who benefits? and how will that play out in an economically unstable time? >> their platform apparently is -- [speaking spanish] >> is that a bumper sticker you
want on your car? >> americans, mr. president, have had it. gwen: the fed up electorate prepares to send a message, any message. covering the week, dan balz of "the washington post," jeanne cummings of politico. john dickerson of "slate" magazine and cbs news and john harwood of the cnbc and "the new york times." >> award-winning reporting and analysis, covering history as it happens. live from our nation's capital, this is "washington week with gwen ifill" produced in association with "national journal." funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> what if you could just be you? what if you had your last bad date? what if she's out there?
what if he's out there? what if you could be loved for exactly who you are? you can. >> funding for "washington week" is also provided by boeing, exxonmobil, the excellence in journalism foundation, the annenberg foundation, the corporation for public broadcasting, and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> once again, live from washington, moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good evening. we appear now to be in the middle of a wave election when everything changes. but who is behind the wave and who is likely to get flopped? christine o'donnell this week's big winner in the delaware senate primary thinks she
knows. she was in washington to address the value voters summit. >> the elite don't get us, they call us wacky, they call us wing nuts, we call us "we the people." gwen: defeated republicans like delaware's mike castronevesle, bob bennett and murkowski are trying to figure out what happened. and also arlen specter and struggling incumbents like ohio governor ted strickland and president obama himself who knows he must convince voters the economy can improve. >> we stop the bleeding, stabilize the economy but the fact of the matter is the pace of improvement is not where it needs to be. and the hole we had dug ourselfs in was enormous. gwen: the scary truth appears
to be rattled voters appear to lash out at lots of people for lots of reasons. let's go through some of the reasons here, panel. starting with you, john. >> the economy. i'll take the easiest, biggest target, the economy is bad and affecting people in their lives and if it's not affecting them it's affecting somebody in their lives and everybody is anxious. in this time of anxiety they turn to washington and see people they dislike, distrust and are just bafoons. and the numbers for congress are terrible and people look and say they're doing nothing to help me in my life. gwen: what about it, jeanne? >> i think that's part of it. action in washington is driving a lot of this. the republicans, many of them are angry because obama won and because the democrats passed a major piece of legislation and now they're taking out incumbents who they think might have helped in that process. independents, i think, are full
of high sang item. -- anxiety. a lot has happened in washington, the big projects to help the economy pass didn't quite work. what will health care do to me and my family and my job? not quite sure. will the wall street reform, if they even noticed it, make any big difference in our lives and fix things on wall street? i think so much has happened it's difficult for them to absorb and it's made them very nervous about what is happening in washington. gwen: difficult for me to absorb because i keep coming up with different answers to the questions. what's yours? >> it has to do with the fact we've even a republican president leave office, terrible numbers, people perceiving his policies as failure, hope invested in this new, young democrat who came in. people look at his policies, even if he's right, even if they are working and people aren't seeing it, they're not feeling it. and so you have this tremendous disappointment. i talked to a couple economists, democrats and
republicans, who say step back and look at the pick pigget. we were financing over conjummings based on a housing bubble and people were borrowing against their homes. it's a deleveraging in the system. and the result of that will take years to get out and we're going to have more electoral instability. we may have two-year periods where whoever is in gets thrown out and the other party comes in. gwen: all the things we're looking for at moments like these when it seems moments are bubbling out of nowhere is a leader to lead the race instead of chasing after the circus. and if there is something to come out of it is sarah palin, vice president nominee in 2008, is spending time at a political party dinner in iowa. a hard trip to resist for any national political reporter so dan balz did not visit us and is there tonight. i spoke tom a few minutes ago. there you are in iowa with sarah palin. is this as obvious a move as it seems? >> everybody thinks it is.
she's clearly at least testing out whether she should test the waters. so the anticipation of a candidacy is part of the discussion here in iowa, has been all week when it was clear she was going to do this. we obviously don't know what she's going to do but nobody comes to iowa who is in her position who isn't at least thinking about running and she gave another hint on that this afternoon in an interview with fox. gwen: what did she say? >> well, she was asked whether she would run. she said, if she thinks the country is ready to be shaken up, if she thinks the country is ready for that, then of course she would give it a real consideration and would be prepared to do it. she left herself some room not to run, obviously, but she certainly didn't sound like a shermanesque type of statement saying, i have no interest in doing this. gwen: if you're an insurgent outsider like people in the tea party movement or sarah palin who describes herself, what are you doing at such an insider
event like a reagan day dinner in iowa? >> well, i will say one thing about sarah palin, if you've been the former vice-presidential nominee, you are in part part of the establishment of the republican party. she has cast her lot certainly with the tea party. but she's been occasionally strategic in some of her endorsements, iowa being an example. she endorsed the establishment candidate in the gubernatorial primary, terry bramsted the former governor over a conservative candidate. there are certain wings who are unhappy with her because of that. while she's mostly a tea party kind of candidate, she knows how to work both sides of the street. gwen: how -- terry program said is a handful -- terry bramsted one of a former governor running for their own seats, what is it about him that makes him a sarah palin kind of candidate? >> i can'tance that. it's a question everyone has
been asking since she did it. she endorsed him in typically a palinesque way, called his headquarters, spoke to the person answering the phones, said this is sarah palin, i just want you to know that in a half an hour, i'm going to be endorsing governor bramstead and your phones will probably begin to light up right after that and the person on the phone said let me get you in touch with the governor, he's not here. she said no, i'm sure he's got more important things to worry about, i wanted to let you know in advance. that's the style of politics she's been practicing. will that translate in a caucus state where you have to do retail politics, make those one-on-one connections? that's a big question that surrounds her because of the way she's kind of the candidate who makes her views known through twitter and face book and social media. gwen: we know 2012 is still a distance away but we've got just a few weeks until the fall elections. to what degree did this week in
which sarah palin endorse christine o'donnell and saw her win and endorse kelly aot in new hampshire and see her win though she was considered to be an insider candidate, how much did that help sarah palin's profile in this power? >> well, i think it helps in a significant way. it reminds people that she is a force. you can say that there are a variety of reasons why each of those candidates may have won, but there's no question that with sarah palin's name attached to it, she gets some of the credit. and i think robert gibbs, the white house press secretary, said today she is obviously a formidable person inside the republican party and perhaps the most formidable person inside the party right now. when you have that kind of reputation and you continue to take some chances in your endorsements and win more than you lose, i think people begin to pay attention and recognize that she's got strength inside the party. gwen: you talked about the
difference in iowa, do iowa conservatives who are very familiar with, very religiously based conservatives, are they equivalent to tea party conservatives as they have come to be defined? >> not quite, gwen. when i've asked people over the last day about the tea party in iowa, the uniform answer is that it is not like it is in other states. here the religious conservatives have dominated the republican party, but there is not the kind of active or energetic kind of tea party movement. there are some tea party people here in the state but i don't think it's the same as we've seen in a number of the other states around the country. gwen: dan balz, i get the feeling you'll be back and forth in iowa more than once. she's not the first, she won't be the last candidate and we'll be checking in with you from time to time. >> thanks, gwen. gwen: ok, here's what puzzles me about all of this. we read the polls, we all do. it is clear that sarah palin,
when her name is put out there, is just not that popular in the public at large. what is it about her or is it something about her that's driving this? >> well, i think you're exactly right about the polls. cbs did a poll this week, if you look inside the tea party movement, she's quite popular and her find as -- her midas touch on a candidate really helps. if you ask that of the general public, it's reversed. people are repelled in larger numbers by the candidates she picks. she sends a perfect message to the tea party activists which is i'm with you, forget these elites who don't get it it. to the extent the elites knock her and say things like i just did about poll numbers, it only makes her stronger because it's seen as this kind of elitist washington mindset that is after her and since people hate had a elitist washington mindset, they can only like the thing that's being attacked. gwen: what's to like about elitism? one of the things we saw christine o'donnell talk about this week is intraparty
cannibalism which she said and her take was the elites were attacking her. among those elites, karl rove who was the architect for so many years and now makes it look like he's not only out of step with this part of his party but maybe his old boss is, too? >> i think she's right, the elites were attacking her. i mean, i think the republican party made it pretty clear that when it came to her candidacy, they felt like things have really gone too far. gwen: it should be said she has a checkered background of things she's said and done. >> she has financial problems in her background, she has issues in which her description of events don't jibe with others, shall we say. and there are many -- and i think what was so stinging for many washington republicans, and party activists and leaders, is that that was the seat that could cost them the senate. and so that was a seat that they really had in their column, mike castle felt confidently was going to walk
right into that senate seat. they didn't have to give delaware a second thought. in losing that one, they may have very well lost the opportunity to win the entire chamber. and so i think that also helped -- she was late in the game, the stakes were that high for them, and i think that drove a lot of the intensity toward her candidacy, that they couldn't afford for her to win. >> let's don't forget, the george bush administration, george bush as president, signed the legislation that bailed out the financial system. that's where the $700 billion tarp program came and a lot of the initial burst of energy in the tea parties against obama, some of it was retrospective against president bush. >> just as little note, sarah palin supported that tarp bailout and that's been erased as well in terms of the new -- if your name is associated with tarp now, you're doomed. gwen: you bring up the idea about the financial crisis. we saw today elizabeth warren who is a darling of the liberals in the democratic
party, brought in not exactly to run this new consumer agency, but kind of a special advisor to the president so she kind of cannot escape confirmation scrutiny, who is she, what does she bring to this, and to what degree was this decision to bring her in a political one? >> i think it was very political in the following respect. they passed -- consumer protection was one of the hallmarks of the democratic approaches to financial regulation. though interestingly, hank paulson, the bush treasury secretary when he recommended financial regulation a couple years ago had a consumer protection component to it as well. elizabeth warren has been a consumer advocate for years as a college professor and someone who has spoken out and been on the congressional oversight panel for the tarp program, trying to see how that's been administered. and she's somebody who is going to stand up that agency. they face a huge fight. republicans are fighting the administration across the board on major and controversial appointments of this kind so the administration's choice is
do we go ahead and have that fight, might have political benefit in the election, or do we get the agency going and tell our base we've won by going around the senate and doing it? that's what they did. gwen: it felt to me like for both parties this was a week which crystalized something interesting, which is they're all runninging a fast as they can to catch up with the oncoming train before it rolls them over but neither party mainstreams or figures out how to do it. >> i think also this decision regarding elizabeth warren is shortsighted because they did it in some respect because they know they can't get the senate vote right now. she would be blocked by a filibuster and it would be a big, nasty fight. but what they've done -- we here in washington see appointments made, recess appointments made that go around the system, but this is a whole new way of going around the system. this appears to be designed to put a puppet in charge of the real office while elizabeth warren directs from afar from
the white house. and that i think takes everything to a whole new level in terms of circumventing the power of the senate. and i think it delegitimizes that office that was supposed to be the staunch advocate for consumers. that was sort of the progressive's heart of financial reform. for a short term victory i don't get that. gwen: but in a year where short term accounts for something when you're trying to do whatever you can to speak to people and tell them i'm on your side, i can't quite turn around the unemployment rate but i can protect your credit cards, don't short term victories count as victories? >> well, and didn't john maine arrested cain -- john maynard caine say we're all dead. in the long term they're all dead and have to do something to save themselves. gwen: which brings us to the question of how voters are. as pragmatism dead when you see
winners saying -- jim demint saying we don't care what they say and will do what's right and what the constitution tells us is right. does it matter when moderates are completely at sea, no one is speaking to them, playing to them, they seem to have abandoned the president and abandoned both extremes of either party? >> it seems like everybody is on their own. and all these candidates are on their own. in the polls there is an interesting disconnect. you have a situation where the overwhelming feeling is get the people in washington out. so what happens in the polls is do you ask people do you like democrats or republicans? they say we prefer democrats to republicans. do you like democratic policies to republican policies on issues like the economy? they prefer democratic policies. so they say who are you picking, the democrat or the republican? they say the republican. so there's a disconnect. you don't like two different kinds of fast food but you're stuck, you have to go to mcdonald's or burger king. you prefer mcdonald's to burger king and prefer all the things they serve you at mcdonald's over burger king but you've been going to mcdonald's for
seven days in a row so you've got -- >> a stomachache. >> you go to burger king to which the democrats say you'll be disappointed if you go there if republicans ultimately take control. >> there's still more to be seen. because if you look at getting back to the independents, if you look at like "the wall street journal" and the nbc polls, i go to this point again, the independents are in a different place than republicans, the republicans are just plain mad and want to win and beat democrats. we get that. gwen: democrats are mad, too. >> the democrats are apathetic and frustrated. but the independents have no confidence in washington anymore. they put their hopes into obama. they are very disappointed. they're really unsettled by what has happened in washington in addition to the fact that washington was focused on issues that weren't important to them for so long. but nobody has really tested these voters with the kind of nominees of the republican party, the angry base has turned to. we've not seen where the
independents are going to weigh in. and if -- can the tea party candidates, and i think some of them can, some of them may not, but can they convince the independent voters that they should have confidence in them, that they can restore some confidence? gwen: that's the battle lisa muck kowske is -- lisa murkowski is trying to figure out in a written ballot. that people aren't buying into the tea party. >> it worked for joe lieberman a couple years ago. gwen: it wasn't a write-in. >> here's whether we know pragmatism is dead. it's certainly dead for the fall. but if we get after the election, let's say republicans win the house and president obama says i've got to work with speaker john boehner, is john boehner going to be so concerned with the tea party conservatives in his caucus and out in the country that he's not going to be willing to come together with president obama? that's going to be the essence
-- gwen: why would it be after the election if he's not for the election if 2012 is around the corner? >> at that point john boehner would have responsibility for running the government and would -- might feel as newt gingrich did at some point with bill clinton the obligation to make a deal. the question is can you make a deal when they're after you? >> the independents in a presidential year play a larger part than in the off year. the way for independents is to see if they'll participate. in a presidential year they participate by larger numbers. so the pressure on john boehner and the republican candidates, do i listen to the pea party -- tea party or keep myself alive in -- >> i think the dynamics are different than in 1994. newt gingrich was the clear leader of the revolution. he didn't have a revolution forced upon him. boehner has not been the leader of this. >> more scared. >> he's just trying to hang on to the bulls as they're running through the streets, that, you know wasn't the case in 1994 and because gingrich was the leader of the revolution, i
think he felt more obligation to them to prove he could lead. once he got into office boehner won't have that since that sort of motivation is spurring him as well. chances are he may be more inclined to watch his back. gwen: is everybody getting a little overreacted to this, getting too nervous? "roll call" wrote of all the incumbents this year, 98% are getting re-elected. it's not as if they're throwing all the bums out they're selectively, and spectacularly in high profile ways throwing certain bums out. >> when the bums thrown out mood costs you a senate seat that would give you control of the senate is worth worrying about. gwen: that's what happened with scott brown as well. people forget we've been through these upheavals before. >> as most incumbents get re-elected which we will, we see a wider ban being contested. in the decade of the 2000's
people consumer because of polarization and redistricting the number of seats that could go back and forth would be very narrow. look what happened in 2006 and 2008. 30 or more seats in both of those -- at least 25 seats in each of those elections flipped. we've now got more seats on the table now than we thought we were going to have on the table six, eight years ago. gwen: since we don't have a crystal ball to tell us what will happen in six or eight weeks, let's go farther ahead and talk about 2012. we saw today the values voter summit and mitt romney out there appealing to the conservative voters. we've heard tim puente and sarah palin in iowa tonight. what are they chasing after? is there a voter they can grab at this point? >> they're chasing after a moving target. in the old days the republican party had a pretty orderly process, you joined the establishment and ran and maybe lost and you were the picked person. to the extent there is one this time it would be mitt romney. the establishment ain't what it used to be and keeps getting yelled at by the tea party folks.
you have to figure out which of those two things to play and who the powerbroker is there. then on the other side of that in the cbs poll 62 some odd people said they didn't know who the leader of the republican party was. so the people on the other side have no idea either. gwen: as a result we see things like dan mentioned robert gibbs of the white house saying that sarah palin is quite formidable. they want to decide who the leader is going to be. >> at various times they nominated rush limbaugh and glenn beck and now sarah palin. gwen: what do they do, the democrats have to speak interest themselves and make their own case especially with the economy? >> they have a good idea who the nominees are going to be o. gwen: how do they sell their nominee? >> they've got to hope economic conditions lift them in ways they thought might happen this fall but are not happening. some of that is time and good fortune. we'll see whether they get it. >> and most economists i talk to say it's almost impossible for barack obama to go into 2012 with an economy this bad, that it's got to start turning around at some point. that it will recover some.
gwen: we'll be watching all of that. thank you all. it was a very quick round stable. seems like the general election will require seat belts. hope you have yours. thank you, everyone. before we go tant, our condolences go out to the family of claire beber, she passed away this morning and was a big "washington week" fan and not only because her son jeff is our executive producer and our thoughts are with jeff and his family on this yom kippur. we'll see you next week on "washington week." good night. captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- >> funding for "washington week" is provided by -- >> we know why we're here. to give our war fighters every
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